By: Sydney Harris, Ruling Sports Contributor (Twitter: @SydDontLie)
You see another advertisement featuring a guy with ripped abs, a smile on his face, and a multi-million dollar fitness franchise. You hear the pitch and might think, “Hey I could be just like him.” You think about it for maybe three, four days tops, and then it slips your mind.
But listen to Mike Chang for five minutes, and you will actually want to try his workouts. Hell, you’ll be planning your next trip to the gym before he’s even done talking. Chang breaks it down for you, starting at “Level One” as he calls it, and then helps you work your way up to the chiseled abs or lean stomach you desire. Except this time, it’s an attainable goal.
And just like the fitness empire he built, Chang started at Level One.
“I grew up in an area where I was always a little afraid of going outside and afraid of my neighbors, because to be honest, it was a little ghetto,” Chang says, referencing his upbringing. “Being Chinese, being a little kid, you know everybody is bigger.”
So fitness became a way for Chang to build confidence, as well as strength. He started working out at 11-years-old, then began developing his own workouts at 14. Growing up in the 90s, Chang also remembers a lot of discrimination. He didn’t have much, so the fear of being judged and proving others wrong fueled him.
“That was kind of the underlying drive at a young age,” reflects Chang. “Fitness put me in a position to prove them wrong.”
Confidence ultimately came when Chang gained a sense of independence. He and his sister discussed running away several times when they were younger. Then when Chang was 16 and his sister was 17, they finally moved in to their own apartment. The control over his own life, finally being independent, was what helped him gain the confidence that he is still working on today.
“It is always building more and more,” admits Chang. “The confidence level I am at today is still a stepping stone.”
So Chang went from a 16-year-old in his own apartment, throwing parties and enjoying the freedom that comes with no longer living under your parents’ roof, to college. Three years into his degree, he decided that college wasn’t for him and dropped out. He knew that if fitness and business were his passions, he needed to be able to integrate the two.
So now flash forward from 20 years old and no longer in college, to 27 years old and looking to turn a hobby into a business plan.
“It would be like a crazy roller coaster ride,” Chang says, describing the beginning years of his company. “Really exciting and you throw up all over the place, but then its so fun that you jump on and do it again.”
He was living in a three-bedroom apartment, with two business partners who were helping him with the start up. His bed was an air mattress that he deflated every morning so that his room could be used for the office. Chang easily summarizes the first year of the company is one word, “tough.”
“I had so many over draft charges. It was insane,” says Chang. “I would go out and buy a bottle of water, an energy drink for about $2.50, and then get hit with a $35 draft because I thought I had 50 bucks in my account. Well, nope didn’t! And I would do that a couple times a day and then I would get the bill, and see my bank statement, and bam! $35 over charge. Holy crap. But was life bad? No it was really fine.”
Fine turned into moving out of the apartment and converting its entirety into an office that fit 25 people. Fine turned into moving out of that office, and into a greater space in downtown Austin, Texas. Fine turned into a $15 million company that has allowed Mike Chang to make a difference in other’s lives.
“It’s a dream,” say Chang when asked what the transition from an air mattress to success has been like. “Right now I’m staring at Lake Travis. Literally right now. It’s very calm; there’s a big reflection from the sun and it’s like a dream. It’s not like it just happened at the snap of a finger. It’s non-stop, non-stop, non-stop grind. I would say for probably the first time in a very long time in my life, I am actually slowing down.”
Yet slowing down doesn’t necessarily mean letting up on the company and it’s product.
“To say that I am the same person I was five years ago when I started the company would be false. Starting the company and being able to help people the way I did, and learn a lot from the business, from producing the content, from working with the people, really taught me a lot. It’s definitely taking the company to the next level and changing my path and where the company is going to go.”
Chang used to run at 100 miles per hour, literally running from desk to desk in his office. However, in the last five months his reality has shifted. He’s taken the time to begin studying the role of psychology and how it correlates with fitness. How does the mind connect to the body?
“So I learned that it doesn’t matter the amount of money you have, what you own, what you drive, what your house looks like, what you want your body to look like, or even what the world thinks of you,” Chang says. “What really only matters is your perception of reality.”
“Afterburn” and maximizing the amount of calorie burning your body does after a work out will remain in the company’s fitness videos. Progressing individuals from more personalized beginner workouts to intense fat-burning exercises that actually work will still be available, too. However, you may see new content soon, perhaps even a new channel. Chang wants to help people see that while health and fitness are vital to people’s lives, happiness should not be determined by the perception of the body or what physical materials an individual owns.
Enter the study of psychology and Chang himself growing as one of those individuals. Just like when he developed his own fitness program, he doesn’t believe in teaching someone something that he has not mastered or understands himself.
“The company was created to approach it in a fitness and health direction, but the underlying goal is to help someone create the life that they want,” Chang says. And that is what Chang is still working toward to this day. “Some people’s reality is literally going to change.”
You can sample Chang’s workouts online by visiting his YouTube channel. (https://www.youtube.com/user/sixpackshortcuts).
About Sydney Harris:
The daughter of a high school baseball coach, Sydney ran the bases from the moment she learned to walk, kept score after learning to count, and quickly grew to be an avid sports fan. Not long after, Sydney took her newfound passion for sports and immersed herself in the industry, working with marketing in collegiate athletics, and integrated media and broadcasting in the NFL and NBA. It was also during her time at the University of Miami and University of North Carolina, where she earned her master’s in Sport Administration and bachelor’s in Journalism and Mass Communication respectively, that she realized the potential the sport industry has to change the society we live in. Now Sydney envisions herself working toward her goal of sharing athletes’ and teams’ unique and awe-inspiring stories in order to motivate and make a difference.